ACT Summer Research Fellowship

Students engaging in community-based research investigate pertinent community issues through quantitative or qualitative measures. In the Academic CommuniTy (ACT) Research Fellowship, the undergraduate researcher works with a community leader and faculty mentor to develop a research project that explores various issues of importance to the community. The results of the research are intended to inform actions for positive social change. Research methods may vary by discipline. Fellows are awarded a stipend of $4000 for full-time summer research. The Fellowship includes a weekly interdisciplinary seminar to discuss the progress of the research, reflect upon the experience, and learn about research methods and ethics. Fellows must prepare a publication-ready final report for PittHonors, and a distribution-ready deliverable, such as a brochure, for their community partner.

Fellows are selected on the basis of their academic record, the quality of their research proposal, the capacity of the research to inform positive social change, and the applicant's commitment to social issues.

Human Research Protection

ACT projects that conduct research on human subjects require review from the  Human Research Protection Office (also known as IRB). Students are encouraged to incorporate IRB review into their research proposal timeline and may choose to start the review process before the summer research begins.  

Application Deadlines

EXTENDED TO March 8, 2019 by 11:59 p.m. 

Who May Apply

This award is open to University of Pittsburgh full-time undergraduate students from any of Pitt's undergraduate schools or majors at the Oakland Campus.

Criteria for a Successful Proposal

To be successful, a proposal should:

  • Identify a pertinent social issue within a clearly identified community and describe the timeliness of this issue.
  • Reflect enthusiastic desire for partnership from a community partner.
  • Address a specific research question, and present feasible and appropriate methodology and timeline.  
  • Display commitment of mentorship from a faculty member with relevant experience. 

Examples of Potential Projects

Public Space and Community Perception in Garfield (Studio Arts): The Fellow could collaborate with the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation and the Sprout Fund of Pittsburgh to research Garfield residents’ perceptions of specific public spaces in the Garfield neighborhood. The Fellow would develop a series of proposals to receive further funding from the Sprout Fund to create community-enacted public arts projects. The locations, methods of creation, and art designs for each public piece would be determined by applying public art theory to interviews with community members.

Voices Project, The Face of Pittsburgh Immigration (English Writing): This Fellow could collaborate with local refugee resettlement organizations to interview Burmese residents of Pittsburgh regarding their integration into the city and American urban life. The Fellow would apply English writing theory exploring perspective and authorship to develop a collection of narratives and analysis of Burmese life in Pittsburgh. The technique used in this study would advocate on behalf of Pittsburgh Burmese individuals and families to an audience of local service providers and government agencies.

Green Alleys, A Permeable Urban Alley Design to Minimize Residential Flooding in Negley Place (Engineering): This student could collaborate with local community members and local government officials to research and develop a semi-permeable alley way in an area of Negley Place where residents experience annual water damage as a result of flooding from poorly designed alleyways. The student would research the topography of the area, interview local residents, research and develop a design for a permeable surface, collaborate with local community members to write a grant for the implementation, and work with local city officials to ensure that the project will be implemented in line with city code.

Application Materials

STUDENT: Submit the following:

  • RESEARCH PROPOSAL: A 2-3-page description of the proposed research project. It should emphasize your interests and goals, your past involvement in the project, and the methods for data collection and analysis that you intend to employ for the project. Research methodology may be specific to your field of interest. For instance, you may or may not use some of the following methodology: surveys, analysis of pre-existing data, interviews, monitoring and evaluation, ethnography, product design research, etc. You may include citations, timeline, and budget. If so, please do not allow the overall proposal to exceed 4 pages.
  • STATEMENT OF INTEREST: A brief commentary (500 words or less) indicating what positive social change means to you, your commitment to achieving this change, and why you are interested in participating in the interdisciplinary seminar with your peers.

FACULTY MENTOR: Submit a 1-2-page letter of support for the student who would work with you. This letter should address the following:

  • What is the student’s role in the research project? Student research, as much as possible, should be independent in nature. Students should feel ownership of the project in contrast to performing at the technical staff level and simply doing as directed. We recognize that in some fields, students may be limited in what can be done.
  • How does your personal research align with the student’s proposed project?
  • What schedules have you and the student decided upon for periodic meetings?
  • How will you assess the student’s academic performance?

COMMUNITY PARTNER: Submit a 1-2-page letter of support for the student who would work with you. This letter should contain the following:

  • What community and issue do you represent and what is your role within this community/issue?
  • What is your relationship to the student whose research you are sponsoring?
  • What is the student’s role in the research project? What is your role in the research project?
  • What schedule have you two decided upon for periodic meetings? How will the student’s research inform decisions in order to make a positive impact in your community and/or address the specified issue?
  • What do you expect the student to produce as a result of the research?

It is the applicant’s responsibility to include all materials mentioned above as a complete application online. Students are welcome to discuss their proposals with Holly Hickling staff prior to the formal submission.